Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

Summary: Apple markets its Time Capsule backup devices has having a 'server-grade' hard drive. A teardown reveals a standard drive.


Apple markets its Time Capsule backup devices has having a 'server-grade' hard drive. A teardown reveals a standard drive.

Here's the sales literature:

Here is what Hardmac found on opening their new Time Capsule:

The reality is a Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS consumer hard drive. NOT a 'server-grade' hard drive. I like the WD20EARS drive, I have lots of them in use at the PC Doc HQ, but when I'm sold something 'server-grade' I expect something better.

It's not the fist time Apple's been naughty and called drives 'server-grade' when they weren't.

Topics: Storage, Apple, Data Management, Hardware

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  • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

    Can't someone litigate that? It's not like people are running servers off of their time machines, but isn't this false advertising?
    • By server grade there is obviously mean 'server size grade', with 2-3 TB ..

      @nickswift498: ... being at the top of possible range, hence not the biggest consumer PC market models, but rather server data storage models in terms of volume.
      • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?


        Rather an unscrupulous way of phrasing ... wouldn't you say? How about calling a spade a spade here ... and admitt that slithering an accepted meaning of "sever grade", in an attempt to decieve, from quality and mean failure life to volume, is dishonest at best.
      • YEAH DeRSSS!!! YEAH!!

        I get it now, Apple didn't define what they meant by server grade, leaving it up to us, the consumer, to apply whatever definition we feel is most appropriate for us! GENIUS!!! Apple is the best!!! YEAH!!!!
      • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

        @DeRSSS - that's spin.

        Consumer-grade drives sell at higher capacity volumes. 2TB and so on can be bought off the shelf. I still wouldn't (two or three 1TB drives aren't going to have the bits so densely packed together, and server-grade drives don't go bananas on higher density because of data integrity concerns...)

        I've never seen, in a server environment, SATA drives used. Or used while remaining credible. They work, but SCSI and SAS are true server-grade adapters. SATA has always been consumer-grade.
      • Size does not make a drive "Server Grade"

        @DeRSSS True server grade drives are very expensive and it has nothing to do with size. Often they are smaller than a desktop drive. It comes down to reliability, very long mean time between failures, etc. For that reason a 2.0 TB desktop drive (like the one pictured) costs only a fraction of the cost of a 2.0 TB enterprise class drive.

        Now for a backup device I'm going to use at home, it would be ridiculous to spend that kind of money on a backup drive. But if they advertise that that's what it is, then it had better be true. Otherwise its just a bait and switch.

        Also, I just looked at the Apple web site and saw that these boxes start at $299.00. Now they are a little upscale from the typical generic external drive in that it has dual band wireless..so its actually a low end wireless NAS. And given that, their price is not unreasonable. Looking around on the web I see a 3 TB Seagate NAS with gigabit ethernet for $219 that should work fine with a MAC. The fact that they are offering wireless is unusual and a product differentiators that some may be willing to pay the extra for. Personally I'm not sure what I would need that for since I could just plug a wired NAS into one of the Ethernet ports on my wireless router and achieve the same thing. Still, they do have a feature that differentiates them.

        Its just that being "server grade" is complete BS. It's the same drive you could get in any number of NAS units out there or in a desktop PC. The sad part is that they really didn't need to throw the BS around. The wireless capability, built in print server, and integration with MACs probably would have sold it to MAC users anyway.
    • It does give one reason to ponder the question


      of just how much of "server grade" hardware actually goes into building and Apple server?

      Tim Cook
      • Apple doesn't build servers.

        @Mister Spock At least not any more. They only build desktop products. The sad part is (as I mentioned elsewhere) is that this seems to be a perfectly good product which is getting towards the upper end of the price range, but isn't unreasonably priced for what it offers...if what it offers is something you need. They didn't really need the additional marketing hype of the "server grade" claim.
    • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

      @nickswift498 To be honest, it's a really vague term now a days isn't it? Compared to servers not only 7+ years ago the new ones are not nearly as reliable(mtbf) as some of the older components. Take a part any of the 1U servers from HP, Sun, Dell and you will likely find drives like this in them. However they make up for it by mirroring them etc. I do wish though that he hadn't said that as it implies a higher MTBF or a sturdier drive that it really isn't.
  • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

    The blue is the lower end drive (mine), green is the mid range drive while the black is the higher end drive.
    Yes, not server quality.
    • No that's not right


      Green is no better or worse than the Blue.

      The difference is that the RPM is variable on the Green drives, but the cache is twice as big to compensate for slow rotational speeds. Slower, less-active motor means less power consumption.

      Blacks have the full speed of Blue drives, but the double-sized cache of the Green's.

      If you were talking about price, Greens are higher priced than Blues, and Blacks are higher than Green. The "quality" doesn't factor into it when you look at one family of drives (ie. consumer vs. enterprise vs. A/V) - it's just differences in performance. If you want higher "quality", you should be looking at their enterprise-class RAID Edition drives.
      • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

        @Joe_Raby Lower rotational speed should mean better reliability (and critically less heat - which is really important if you're going to cram the drive in that little box).

        In many ways the green is the right drive to put in there. An A/V drive wouldn't be "better" - it would be worse.

        However, the marketing speak of calling it a "server grade" drive is stretching it beyond what's reasonable.

        Err - RAID? the "I" in that is inexpensive, this drive qualifies. What you'd really be looking for was a SLED. I think this cuts to the heart of the problem. Servers don't rely on the reliability of single drives; we assume they will fail. In the case of Time Capsule a failure isn't a catastrophic event (it's a backup - not primary storage). But Apple's marketing is over-egging things to suggest there is anything particularly special about this drive that merits a higher price. In fact, the "special" nature of this drive is a reasonable performance, and a lower rotation speed - together making it a good choice for this application.

        Changing the product would be wrong, removing the claim that the drive used was in some way "expensive" or "not consumer grade" would be the right course of action. If one was going to put a higher performance drive in then cooling should be increased at the same time.
      • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

        @jeremychappell<br><br>The I in RAID is for Independent, not inexpensive.

        edit: alright, half point each, apparently it was "originally" inexpensive.
    • Black isn't either.

      @MoeFugger Black's not really a server grade drive either... Something like a Seagate constellation or a Seagate cheetah would be... I'm not as familiar with WD products, but I believe their high end is the Raptor.
      • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

        @snoop0x7b WD Raptors and Velociraptors are their "Gaming Grade" drives, though they're now listed with enterprise storage on WD's page. Now if Apple would have went with a 2002FYPS instead of a 20EARS, I could see the "enterprise class" claim holding some meaning.
      • RE: Hey, Apple! Where's that 'server-grade' Time Capsule hard drive you promised us?

        @snoop0x7b Just an FYI. I've installed WD Raptor and Velociraptor drives in customer's computers over the past five years, maybe 6 or 7 total. Every single one has failed, including a 2-year-old Velociraptor installed in my own personal system. They're fast but they're junk.
  • You guys don't understand how Foxconn works

    Foxconn makes a bunch of drives. They all look exactly the same on the outside but from what I've heard, they have different levels of flaws on the inside. Apple INSISTS on much higher levels of testing from Foxconn so all Apple components are of much higher quality even if they are labelled exactly the same as the lower end stuff.

    Trust me, these are server grade hard drives.
    • And you don't understand how drive testing works.

      @woulddie4apple First off, Foxconn doesn't *make* drives - they buy them from companies like Western Digital, who make them. So for what you're suggesting to be true, either Foxconn has to buy a crapload of WD drives and through some magical filtering process, pick out the best ones for Apple. You do realise that Foxconn also makes computers for a lot of other companies (like HP) - can you imagine how they'd react if they found out Foxconn was building their computers with the 'left overs'?

      That aside, you can't actually test a hard drive the way you're suggesting. Each drive is unique and will fail randomly. Even if you took each one and ran it for a year, then removed the ones that fail - you'd still have random failures in the remaining ones over the next year at about the same rate.

      That rate of failure is how WD classifies the drives into consumer or server grade. Server grade drives are significantly more expensive than consumer grade - so WD isn't going to let their best quality drives go to Apple for a consumer price.

      WD already does statistical testing to determine the MTBF for their drives. You can't do much more testing to try and cherry pick the best ones from the pool.

      The whole 'Apple gets the manufacturer to choose the best parts from the inventory' is a classic Apple fan myth.
      • But I've heard this said a million times on ZDNet

        How could it not be true?
      • Do not feed the troll (woulddie4apple): Foxconn does not assemble drives ..

        @TheWerewolf: ... and Apple has nothing to do with it controlling WD, Seagate or Toshiba fabrics.